Planting Seeds by Shannon Unzicker

Shannon Musselman Unzicker, Benson, Illinois, is an active member of the Mennonite Church of Normal where she serves as a cluster group leader along with her husband, Keith. She teaches a primary Sunday school class and participates in the local Moms in Touch. Shannon is employed as a librarian at Roanoke-Benson Junior High School and is the mother of four children. She serves as the Great Lakes regional representative on the MW USA board.

As I’m writing this post,  I’m enjoying the changes that the season of summer brings. For the last ten years on Memorial Day, our family has attended a summer kick-off event at Menno Haven Camp In Tiskilwa, IL. It is a time to meet the summer staff and learn about what is planned for coming weeks. There is singing, prayers of thanks for God’s faithfulness in years past, and the anticipation of what lies ahead. I’ve heard it said that part of the ministry of a Christian camp is to “plant seeds” in the hearts of those who attend—seeds that grow a desire to learn more about Jesus and what it means to follow him.
There is much similarity in the work of MW USA. Through our publications and social media, we offer stories of how women have been and continue to be hands and feet of Jesus.  Our Sister Care ministry seeks to plant seeds of growth and healing in the hearts of the women who attend each seminar.  Mennonite women continue to plant seeds of God’s love and hope in the hearts of those nearby and far away—even those they will never meet—through the ministries of MW USA. For this we are grateful and thankful, and we pray that these many seeds will continue to grow and advance God’s kingdom here on earth.

 

Worshiping Together Daily by Denise Nickel

Denise is a member of Tabor Mennonite Church in Newton, Kansas. She is active with the worship team, children’s ministries, deacon and women’s Group. She is secretary to the principal of Goessel Elementary School. She and her husband, Elton have three children and seven grandchildren.

My husband and I are in a small group of six couples at our church, Tabor Mennonite, rural Newton, KS. In early January 2018, one of our small group friends called and said their Christmas season had been one with an unexpected turn of events. Our small group had not been in regular communication with one of the couples, Rosie and Kent, because Rosie is also our pastor and she was on sabbatical. When she called the rest of us in January, we discovered that instead of spending time reaching her sabbatical goals, she accompanied her husband to doctor appointments. They had both gone for annual checkups in December but were told to come back in early January when they received devastating news that Kent’s tests proved positive for prostate cancer. They were told that the cancer was treatable but not curable. We were all shocked and overwhelmed, but God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

What could we do to show our love? Our group immediately kicked into action and fixed a meal and gathered as a group to share their burden.

What else could we do? How could we practice Sister Care? Lois, our member who enjoys quilting, started percolating an idea. We would give them something of ourselves that would be a constant reminder that we are praying for them and that they would never leave our thoughts and prayers. It would be something special for these friends to show them that we are walking the difficult road with them. Lois had made a Cancer Quilt for another friend a couple of years earlier so her wheels were already turning.

Lois asked all of us, including Kent and Rosie, to send her our favorite colors and hobbies or interests. The next thing she did was gather fabrics that symbolized all of these things. She also purchased fabric phrases that said “What Cancer Cannot Do”. She included light blue because she discovered when making her first Cancer Quilt that different types of cancers use different colors. Prostrate cancer is light blue. With fabrics surrounding the “cancer” fabrics of farming, mechanics, estate sales, gardening, reading, going for coffee, sewing and steam engines, we hoped this would serve as a symbol of us surrounding them with love and prayers.   We added red and blue cancer ribbons to represent hope, and balanced that out with Kent’s Kansas University Jayhawks and farming and the inspirational fabric as we need the Lord’s presence to walk with us. On February 17, the ladies met to sew the top, Lois quilted it, and the ladies got together to finish the binding on February 27. Lois wrote a poem (of which some phrases I have use in this blog), and we met our deadline. Before the stitching had time to cool off we presented the quilt to Kent and Rosie on March 4, 2018.

Kent and Rosie continue with their journey of cancer shots and chemo pills and we trust that God’s presence is upon them as friends carry them with prayers. One of Rosie’s favorite verses is Prov. 3:4-5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Believing in this verse is providing some hidden blessings amidst their walk with cancer.

 

Patterns by Marie Harnish

Marie Harnish of Indianapolis, Indiana, attends First Mennonite Church where she is active on the fellowship, mentor-mentee, Jr. Mennonite Youth Fellowship and allergy awareness committees. She makes pottery in her home studio and considers her garden to be an art project. Marie and her husband, Ned Geiser, have three children.

Patterns are everywhere. The human eye sees patterns that give order to what you wear, where you drive, what structure you live in, what colors make you feel relaxed or not. Recognizing patterns is one of the first ways a young child begins to learn about letters and numbers. Think of a child stacking squares or matching up puzzle pieces.

Quilts are the same way, stacking blocks and putting puzzle pieces together in a pleasing pattern. With my newly discovered interest in quilting, thanks in part to a good sewing machine, (courtesy of my daughter’s inheritance from her FMC mentor, Luanne Fast), I am loving figuring out how to put patterns in quilts! My favorite part of a quilt is the process of designing…choosing interesting fabrics with similar or opposing colors, pinning shapes to my design wall, and finally, satisfied the pattern works well together, deciding to sew.

Even in the t-shirt quilts I make, the designing time is important, which entails rearranging small pieces of graph paper until all the pieces fit in a pleasing pattern that reflects the quilt recipients interests. For example, I made a quilt for a baseball player that began with shirts in the shape of a diamond in the center. For a runner, I made steps going up with 4” x 12” sections of his shirts.

I told myself I would start quilting when I turned 50, with my “gateway” being t-shirt quilts. I don’t necessarily make traditional quilts, but lean toward the modern, bright colors, and random color combinations. I often find patterns in unexpected places. I recently finished 2 t-shirt quilts for brothers with unique backing fabrics, one with red batik swirls and the other black tiny curls. As I worked on them, I realized the patterns and colors looked fabulous together, like a checkerboard! Often, I just start sewing random fabrics together to use up small pieces, perhaps in a limited color scheme, until they are all mixed up. Then, I can cut them in an orderly fashion, to create a pattern that is less chaotic, like the cross from leftover banner fabric.

While working on the JUSTICE.JUST US banner with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quote this past year, the group of women working on the design had unique visions of the pattern for the project. I had a vision, but couldn’t figure out how to get the pattern right with the fabrics we had. We met on Tuesday evenings for several months and 2-3 women each time would work on the pattern. On the design wall, one woman would put together strips in a pleasing color pattern in one corner and another woman worked on her pattern in another corner. The next week another person would join us and she would make patterns she liked and cannibalize fabric strips from someone else’s section. Clearly, we had many ways we thought the fabric colors would form the pattern we were trying to achieve! Add to that, some women wanted to know exact pattern and size (the airplane mechanic) and another (the artist) wanted things to be a process, figuring things out as we went. (I feel safer knowing the airplane mechanic is very precise!) Eventually, we settled on a 4” x 12” pattern with dark outer edges and light center fabrics to achieve the woven pattern you see. The collaborative experience was positive, with much laughter along the way, and we are happy to have created a pleasing pattern with many metaphors of weaving together Christian faith, hard work of justice, and connecting to each other.

I see and think about patterns all the time…in colors, on buildings, on the water, in the garden, repetitive and random,…I have so many ideas and drawings (and fabrics), I will always have something to create! I can’t wait. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go sew…

You can find more of Marie’s work at the following links:

https://marieharnishcreations.wordpress.com/

MarieHarnishCreations@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/marieharnishquilts/

https://www.instagram.com/marieharnishquilts/

Faith and Caring in the Digital Age by Teresa Boshart Yoder

Teresa Boshart Yoder, East Coast representative for the MW USA board, reflects on our spring theme, Faith Formation in the Digital Age.

I have to begin my sharing with a very honest confession, I am not technologically savvy. I’m actually surprised my two daughters and son-in-law haven’t requested payment for services rendered for iPhone help, TV remote control training and general “I don’t understand this and what I am supposed to do?” Just last evening when my daughter Nicole brought over a DVD for us to watch, she was frustrated that our DVD player wasn’t Blu-ray. Apparently you can’t play a Blu-ray DVD in a regular old DVD player. Who knew? Certainly not me! I received another lesson on what technology my husband Lonnie and I need to update to “keep up with the times”.

As I have pondered why I need to keep up with the times, what that means and will it benefit me in any way, I have come to some interesting conclusions. I have heard all the warnings about technology, how it is stunting the communication growth of young people and how it will harm families and their fellowship. I also understand that technology can be dangerous for people who struggle with addictive personalities and they may need some help with appropriate use and control. I also know that when the telephone began to be widely used in the last century, warnings about how it would destroy Christian families followed closely behind. To my best knowledge, I don’t believe that happened (maybe I should google it). Continue reading

You, too?

This is an addendum to Janet’s original post, “me, too”. Click here to read the original post.

I was not prepared for the response I got when I posted my “me, too” story a few days ago. As I said in that initial post: “I tell it so that everyone who hears my story is aware, watchful, and careful to love and protect those who are vulnerable to victimization, or have been victimized.”

I had also not anticipated that with social media being what it is, and “sharing” stories via multiple social media venues . . . there might be someone who would actually put my carefully worded story together and figure out that they knew me back then. I also never considered that a reader might also have been a victim of the very same perpetrator. Continue reading

me, too

Have you ever been awakened in the middle of the night by someone banging on your door yelling loudly, “Are you okay, are you okay???” This was a first for me. My upstairs neighbor had probably heard me screaming for someone to help me through our poorly-insulated walls and been startled awake. After a brief apologetic explanation she returned to her home, assured that I was safe. I went back to bed and lay wide awake until I rose at morning light.

I was embarrassed by this incident and avoided running into my neighbor for a few days, hoping to never again speak of our nighttime interruption. My educated guess on what had caused my outburst was this “me, too” movement. The seemingly endless daily reports of sexual harassment abuse and molestation had most likely triggered a flashback*. I’m a “me, too” woman, who sometimes has flashbacks.

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Sitting in the Silence by Tonya Detweiler

Sitting still has never been my forte. All I have ever known is enough energy to get up and go, stay on the go at full throttle speed, often juggling two or three extracurricular activities or balancing multiple jobs at the same time. I have usually been fortunate to find work and activities that offer flexibility and allow this pace to be possible, and because I usually felt happy, it has often felt like a good way of life.

A few years ago the pastoral team at our church challenged us to “5 Habits of Jesus Followers,” which included weekly tasks such as blessing people not connected to our church, eating meals with others, studying scriptures, practicing journaling, and the fifth one… listening to the Holy Spirit. The first four felt doable, because for doers like me, those are the easy ones. You add them to your to-do lists, get them done, and off you go. But that last one felt more difficult.  We were to spend ten minutes a day sitting in silence to listen to what God might have to say to us, reveal to us, or just to center ourselves around God for ten minutes each day. I liked the concept, but couldn’t we talk about it in small group, or form a bible study, or go to lunch and talk about how we were listening? You get it. I needed to be quiet and practice this discipline most of all. And I knew it. Continue reading

The Joy of the Purple Ribbon

Kathy Bilderback, board chair for Mennonite Women USA, reflects on Mennonite Church USA Conference 2017 in Orlando.

As I walked from hotel to classroom to booth to ballroom and exhibit or meal hall, I observed others. I smiled to strangers, hugged friends I hadn’t seen in a while, and walked alongside new friends. But it was the ribbons on nametags that I kept noticing. The sight played out in my mind, “oh, that person is an Executive Board Member, that woman is a Mennonite college alum, and look there is another purple Mennonite Women USA ribbon.” Continue reading

Welcoming New Board Members

 

 

new board members

Janet Lynn Kroeker (left), MW USA board west coast representative; Teresa Boshart Yoder (right), MW USA east coast representative

Mennonite Women USA would like to extend a warm welcome to our two newest board members: Janet Lynn Kroeker and Teresa Boshart Yoder.

Kroeker, who represents the west coast, began her four-year term in 2016. She lives in San Francisco where she is a member of First Mennonite Church. The now-retired Kroeker studied voice at the Music Academy of the West and theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, although she spent most of her career working as a graphic designer and art director.

Of her appointment to the MW USA board of directors, Kroeker says, “I would be honored to serve in any way as part of the wondrous women in leadership in our church. I so seek to figure out how best we can empower the church through our gifts.”

Boshart Yoder, who replaces Twila Yoder as the east coast representative, will begin her four-year term in 2017. She lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia with her husband Lonnie. She is a member of Community Mennonite Church.

Boshart Yoder currently works as a stewardship consultant at Everence, before which she served for 35 years as a registered nurse in women’s health care. She is the board chair for the Collins Center, a local child advocacy center and she also serves on the advisory board for Eastern Mennonite University Biomedicine program.

 

 

 

 

 

MW USA at Kansas City Convention :: Recap

Convention 2015 was truly amazing for Mennonite Women USA. If you were there, thank you for visiting with us at our booth, in our seminars and at our gatherings. If you weren’t there, thank you for your support and prayers over us during this important event.

Here’s a fun recap of how we were involved:

BOOTH

We had a polkadot theme this year as a kick-off to our mega polkadot theme for our 100-year anniversary being celebrated at the 2017 convention in Orlando. With visitors and friends wearing polkadots we had a lot of fun! (PS: I only wore polkadots so I was always easy to “spot.”)

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Here come the polkadots!

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Polkadot purse!

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